JOURNAL ARTICLE

Social capital, income inequality, and self-rated health in 45 countries

Carol Mansyur, Benjamin C Amick, Ronald B Harrist, Luisa Franzini
Social Science & Medicine 2008, 66 (1): 43-56
17913321
There has been growing interest in the relationship between the social environment and health. Among the concepts that have emerged over the past decade to examine this relationship are socio-economic inequality and social capital. Using data from the World Values Survey and the World Bank, we tested the hypothesis that self-rated health is affected by social capital and income inequality cross-nationally. The merit of our approach was that we used multilevel methods in a larger and more diverse sample of countries than used previously. Our results indicated that, for a large number of diverse countries, commonly used measures of social capital and income inequality had strong compositional effects on self-rated health, but inconsistent contextual effects, depending on the countries included. Cross-level interactions suggested that contextual measures can moderate the effect of compositional measures on self-rated health. Sensitivity tests indicated that effects varied in different subsets of countries. Future research should examine country-specific characteristics, such as differences in cultural values or norms, which may influence the relationships between social capital, income inequality, and health.

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